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Letter to the editor: Pennsylvania severely lacks state funding to grow tourism

Pennsylvania severely lacks state funding to grow tourism

Pennsylvania is a hidden gem for tourism. While the state offers rich history, scenic four seasons, resorts and attractions, we struggle to effectively market our assets because of our severe lack of tourism funding.

Every one of our surrounding states can present a substantial marketing war chest.

After earmarks, Pennsylvania’s current tourism budget available for statewide marketing is just $2 million.

New York competes against us with a tourism budget of $37 million, Maryland with $12 million, New Jersey with $9 million and Ohio with $8 million.

Given our budget, we aren’t on the same playing field. We aren’t even in the same stadium watching the game.

Not that long ago, Pennsylvania was a strong regional and national competitor for the tourism dollar.

Before 2008, our tourism budget was in excess of $30 million. This was cut by two-thirds during the Great Recession and continued to be cut in subsequent years.

The economy has since recovered; however, the tourism budget has never been proportionately restored.

3-TO-1 RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Tourism is one of the smartest investments Pennsylvania can make. For every $1 spent on promoting tourism, $3 are returned to the state.

Moreover, tourism affects just about every other industry in Pennsylvania positively and substantially – agriculture, construction, manufacturing, lodging, retail trade, transportation, food and beverage, entertainment and the list goes on and on.

With legislators scrambling to find sustainable revenue, it’s important they see the extreme value that exists in funding Pennsylvania’s tourism marketing efforts.

TRAVELERS SPEND $41B

According to reports published by the state Department of Community & Economic Development, traveler spending in Pennsylvania totaled $40.8 billion in 2015.

Additionally, Pennsylvania’s travel and tourism industry supported nearly 490,000 jobs in total, which is 6.5 percent of the state’s total employment.

If we could produce this impact with a few million dollars, imagine what we could accomplish with a budget that allows us to adequately compete with our neighboring states.

DESERVES TO BE A TOP PRIORITY

Given the potential return on investment, we hope that our legislators will make Pennsylvania tourism a top priority in the 2018-2019 budget.

To everyone who calls Pennsylvania home and who enjoys the many fruits of a thriving tourism industry, I strongly urge you to call your local legislators and express your concern.

Urge them to invest in Pennsylvania by investing in tourism. The current lack of tourism funding is not sustainable and no longer something we can ignore.

Chris Barrett is president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau (www.poconomountains.com), based in Stroudsburg, the tourism promotion agency for the counties of Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne.

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